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Cyber Criminality: A Growing Threat To Digital Economy

Skimming, hacking, “SIM box” fraud, defacement amongst others are the different tactics through which the phenomenon is manifested with banks, telecom companies and other State institutions mostly hit.

The development of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) has been the big event of the century. Over the past year, digital technologies have been expanding tremendously. Digital revolution marked by the convergence of information technology and telecommunications, has radically transformed traditional economic business models, the way our societies function and our lifestyle. In a meteoric rise, digital technology has invaded our privacy to the extent that individuals, companies and institutions cannot do without these very recent tools. With this digital boom, cyber fraudsters are also devising various sophisticated methods to defraud companies, banks and public institutions. Cameroon is floating the digital economy as the new gold-mine to trigger economic growth and job creation but the growing rate of cyber criminality is a veritable menace to the digital economy drive. The Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, Minette Libom Li Likeng while presenting a paper in June 2017 biannual Conference of Regional Governors titled the “Protection of National Cyberspace in the domain of ICTs,” underlined that fraudsters take advantage of the internet’s anonymity, malevolent people use the Internet and social media for purposes of propaganda, scamming and terrorism. Every day, hundreds of millions of cyber-attacks occur with the intention to steal strategic corporate or personal data.” Cameroon is ranked third after Nigeria and Ghana in terms of countries worst hit by cyber criminality. Manifold Manifestations Fraudsters have devised sophisticated avenues to perpetrate their malicious acts. The Director General of the National Agency for Information and Communication Technologies (ANTIC), Dr Ebot Enaw, said last year that local banks lost at least FCFA3.5 billion through acts of skimming. Skimming consists of criminals hacking magnetic cards with special devices inserted in automated teller machines. Apart from skimming, “SIM box” fraud appears to be more dangerous method as it targets telecom companies. A SIM box is a device that enables people abroad to place calls at local tariffs, causing huge financial losses to companies as well as the State treasury. The illicit activity cost local telephone companies FCFA38 billion and the State FCFA4billion between 2011 and 2015. Philisiwe Sibiya, the then Chief Executive of MTN Cameroon, said fraudsters diverted “close to 60 million minutes” of international call traffic through SIM box fraud during the period. Cybercrime in Cameroon also manifests itself through “web defacement”, whereby criminals change the interface of a website, fake profiles on social networks, and hack into e-mails of enterprises and individuals. ANTIC reveals that 17 web defacement were detected in websites of ministries in the last five years with 3000 vulnerabilities discovered during security audits. Statistics from the regulatory agency also show that some 62 identification requests related to cybercrimes originating from Cameroon and targeting foreigners were referred to ANTIC specialised services by International Police (Interpol). Over FCFA 3 billion lost incurred through scamming.

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